The paper I use in my artwork is an integral part of the medium. Its richness adds an important element of completeness – almost like the background in an oil painting. Imagine my drawings on white paper and I think you can agree that they just wouldn’t be as interesting. How did I come to use this particular paper?
While developing my artwork after I retired I found a forgotten piece of yellow parchment-like paper buried in the bottom drawer of my flat files. I’d bought the paper some 10 – 15 years prior at a small art store that was no longer in business. I decided to use the paper in a drawing and it opened the door to the work I am currently highlighting on this website. The trouble was, I only had one sheet of the paper and I didn’t know what the name of the paper was. I decided to visit a local paper store that sells hundreds of different kinds of papers from all over the world.
After searching with a sales agent for 45 minutes I found the paper (or so I thought). I bought several sheets and returned to my studio only to realize that while similar, it wasn’t the same yellow color as the original paper I’d fallen in love with. However, a sticker on the paper I’d bought said it was Lokta paper. After a quick search on Google I realized that Lokta came in over forty different solid colors, as well as many decorative patterned papers. Mine was called “Lemon Yellow” and after another quick search I found a dealer and ordered a dozen sheets. I also researched the history of the paper which I will share here (ripped directly off of Wikipedia):
Nepalese handmade Lokta paper is made from the fibrous inner bark of high elevation evergreen shrubs primarily from two species of Daphne (plant) (Greek: meaning “Laurel”): Daphne bholua and Daphne papyracea, known collectively and vernacularly as Lokta bushes.
Lokta bushes proliferate in open clusters or colonies on the southern slopes of Nepal’s Himalayan forests between 1,600 and 4,000 m (c.5,250–13,000 ft.).
Lokta is a non-wood forest product (NWFP) harvested from protected areas (national parks, reserves, conservation areas) and is an important reservoir of biological resources maintained under in situ condition in the unique and diverse Himalayan ecosystems. When harvested, the Lokta bush automatically regenerates to a fully grown 4-5 meter plant within 5–7 years.
Historically the handcrafting of Lokta paper occurred in the rural areas of Nepal, most notably in the Baglung District. Today raw Lokta paper is produced in more than 22 districts in Nepal, but finished Lokta paper products are produced only in Kathmandu Valley and Janakpur.
Lokta paper’s durability and resistance to tearing, humidity, insects and mildew have traditionally made Lokta paper the preferred choice for the recording of official government records and sacred religious texts.